Review: Tales From Dark Crisis hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


The legacy of Dark Crisis may turn out to be “OK event, terrible tie-ins.” I am shocked how many questions I still have about the main series having finished now the last of the tie-in books, Tales From Dark Crisis. All that’s left is the Flash book, but it seems a lot for Jeremy Adams to fill in all the gaps in Joshua Williams' miniseries.

The Worlds Without the Justice League book at least had some above average stories to recommend it, even if it too barely related to Dark Crisis. The Tales book never even rises to that level, and what’s passable is often marred by inconsistent characterization or poor alignments with continuity. There’s a lot of wasted potential here.

[Review contains spoilers]

My biggest disappointment in Tales was Dark Crisis: The Deadly Green. Written in part by Ram V, I had hoped this might be a Crisis-tinged epilogue to V’s recent, superlative Swamp Thing miniseries. But while new Swamp Thing Levi Kamei is here, any consequence of his being new to the role is glossed over. Despite Williamson having alluded in Justice League Incarnate to the former Swamp Thing’s dealings with the Great Darkness (in Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing) being integral to Dark Crisis’s conflict, it’s not even Swamp Thing who encounters the Darkness here, but John Constantine. Instead, Superman Jon Kent, Levi, and the teenage Raven bicker with each other for far too many pages before the story ends.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

I noted in my review of Dark Crisis proper how the Flashes castigate themselves over the loss of the “Infinite Earths” in the first Crisis. I couldn’t quite clock where this information was revealed or reexplained in Dark Crisis, and expected it might be in the tie-ins. It is not here, at least; in Dark Army, in a sequence written by Deliah Dawson, Dr. Light is already inexplicably going on about the Multiverse and the Infinite Earths, even seemingly conflating them when I think they’re meant to be separate. As with Dark Crisis, MacGuffins abound; Damian (drawn incorrectly as an adult by Jack Herbert) uses a conveniently all-encompassing device from Mr. Terrific to follow the villain Pariah’s trail.

Mistakes in DC lore underscore what we’ve suspected for a while, that DC history is too complex if even the creators can’t keep up. In Dark Crisis: Big Bang, Barry Allen’s statement (via Mark Waid, no less!) that Wally West resurrected him after the first Crisis is either a misunderstanding of Final Crisis or a big oversimplification of Flash: Rebirth. And the premise of Big Bang, Barry hunting his “murderer,” the Anti-Monitor, seems to ignore a bunch of the Justice/Doom War (which other parts of Dark Crisis referenced) that we’re not supposed to see the Anti-Monitor as enemy but as unwilling accomplice.

Dark Crisis: War Zone has a fine team-up of Iris Allen and Linda Park-West; there’s not much to it, but at least it’s by Flash writer Adams with art by Fernando Pasarin. But items like the Spectre story are immediately forgettable, the Amazons story astoundingly mild. The same with Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis; at first I liked the overly fussy placing of Wally just so for where he starts in Dark Crisis, but ultimately it seemed like a lot of set-moving with no real payoff.

Speaking of Road, emphasizing the inanity of where we are, did you wonder in Stephanie Phillips' story how Nocturna knows Batgirl Stephanie Brown’s identity? That’s because Nocturna and then-Spoiler were close — in the starting arc of Jon Lewis' short Robin run some 20 years ago.

Charitably, maybe those obscure comics are Phillips' favorites — and not that someone on the line grabbed the first available reference issues and went with it — but given the high profile of the Road comic, you’d think editorial would want something less confusing to the uninitiated reader. Not to mention, this Nocturna (never called Nocturna in the original story, mind you) has been subsequently replaced by at least two other Nocturnas. One of those plagued Batwoman Kate Kane and is due to do so again soon, I think, and one appeared in the most recent Suicide Squad, with collections still on the shelves — either of which would have been a more marketable choice for this story, short of simply a different story instead.

A multitude of new Earths, as shown in Mark Waid’s Dark Crisis: Big Bang, is always fun. Cynically, I note most of them reflect current DC non-continuity miniseries, a way of assuring readers and their wallets that “it all matters” when it possibly does not; infinite Earths means every project can have one. But then, that’s the value of the “multiverse” concept, too.

I do wish Tales From Dark Crisis and the Dark Crisis books were more explicit on these points; I do wish some of what was set up at the outset — what is the Elseworld, for instance — had come to fruition by the end of this. I am just stymied that some of what seemed to be nonsense in Dark Crisis did indeed turn out to be nonsense and not references to events in the tie-in books. It’s just befuddling.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Rating 2.0

Comments ( 5 )

  1. Boy, it's a real testament to this crossover that I genuinely don't remember most of these issues. Skimming back over them, it seems like a lot of puttering from macguffin to macguffin so the characters can pop into the main series and exclaim, "I got the thing!"

    Big Bang was the only standout for me, although that's more on premise than execution. I'm a sucker for any Multiversity-style tour through parallel worlds (especially if Dan Jurgens is on art duties). That variant cover with Bob the Goon next to DC Super Hero Girls Wonder Woman is the sort of whimsy that comics sorely need, and the "everything counts" vibe is strong with this one.

    You've got the Flash crossover volume left, but am I reading things right that "I Am Batman" #15 isn't in any of the collections? Not that it's a game-changer tie-in, but it's fun to see Jace Fox fighting Sinestro (the sort of deep rooting in the DCU that John Ridley's book sorely needed).

    1. Yes, that’s right. The I Am Batman issue is only in its own collection. I'm good with that for now as long as it's collected somewhere — not substantially different than Flash, except for the number of issues that tie in — but maybe I'll feel different after I read it. Eager to read it — I like I Am Batman in general — but I can't imagine it's more connected than the Flash, and I'm using the phrase "connected" really loosely.

      I also liked the Bob the Goon/Wonder Woman cover — is that a reference people still get, I wonder? Once upon a time I was excited to have the Bob action figure only to puzzle endlessly later over the fact that Bob got an action figure when he died in the movie — presupposing, of course, that the "continuity" of any action figure is to take place after the media they came out of. That there was also a Joker figure was not at all puzzling — after all, Joker "returned" in the Game Boy game. Good times!

    2. Ha! Glad I'm not the only one who fussed over action figure continuity. The "Batman Returns" Penguin looked more like Jack Burnley than Danny De Vito, so I imagined that Penguin had not died at the end of the film but rather had simply taken a bath. Once I got the animated series figure (with the spinning umbrella), my mind was ready for an alternate universe. (Except for the fact that I never had an animated Poison Ivy toy, so Uma Thurman had to do.)

  2. The Flash issues were my favorite part of the crossover but I don't remember them being that essential. It was mostly the Flash family on some alternate Earths and then hanging out with various heroes. I just really loved that Flash run

    1. Well, quick preview, I was not so high on Search for Barry Allen (review next week) but I *loved* One-Minute War.


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